Jewish Minor Fast Days

A brief description of all the minor fasts on the Jewish calendar.

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Tsom Gedaliah, the Fast of Gedaliah: Tsom Gedaliah occurs on the third of Tishrei, the day following Rosh Hashanah. It commemorates the date that Gedaliah ben Ahikam, the Babylonian-appointed Jewish governor of Judah, was killed by other Jews.Gedaliah's death was seen as the moment the Jews lost hope that Babylonian domination would be stopped and the Jewish state would survive.

Asarah be-Tevet, the 10th of Tevet: Asarah be-Tevet marks the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar.

Ta'anit Esther, the Fast of Esther: Ta'anit Esther falls on the 13th of Adar and is a commemoration of the Jews being saved from destruction at the hands of the Persian official, Haman, by the heroic efforts of Queen Esther. It is described in the biblical book of Esther. This fast occurs on the day before Purim, unless Purim falls on a Sunday, in which case the fast is observed on the preceding Thursday. Queen Esther asked her uncle Mordecai to declare a fast for the Jews as a means of praying for her success with King Ahasuerus and against the evil Haman. Questions arise because the declared fast in the biblical book did not occur on Adar 13. One of the explanations for why this date was chosen is that on the 13th of Adar the Jews of Persia had to gather together to prepare for their war of survival, and such days were often public fast days.

minor fasts quizThere is an additional fast day that is in a different category than the public fasts. Ta'anit Bekhorim (Fast of the First Born) is considered a private fast, and only applies to the first born son of a mother or of a father. On the 14th of Nisan, the day before Passover (commencing in the morning like the other minor public fasts), the first born fasts in commemoration of the 10th plague. During this plague, all the first-born sons of the Egyptians were killed while the Israelites were saved.

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